Caine's Arcade: Sweat, Ingenuity and ... Boxes

Caine's Arcade
Source: Nirvan Mullick
Caine's Arcade

Business owners looking for inspiration should look no further than Caine Monroy.

His business, Caine’s Arcade, was built on sweat, ingenuity and — cardboard boxes.

That’s right, an arcade made from cardboard boxes left over from his dad’s used-car parts business, Smart Parts Aftermarket.

A short film, "Caine’s Arcade", tells the 9-year-old’s story.

Caine, his dad George says, loves arcades, and the games, so the boy decided to build one of his own in the front of dad’s shop in East Los Angeles.

Caine created an elaborate game center, with ticket dispensers — he sits inside the box and shoves tickets out as players score points — and prizes culled from his old Hot Wheels collection.

Only one problem, his dad said: The aftermarket car parts business has become a mostly online business. Walk-ins are few and far between.

That didn’t stop Caine from continually improving his arcade, thinking up new and better games. He even designed a T-shirt that had “Caine’s Arcade” printed on the back, and “Staff” on the front.

But one person did walk into the store: filmmaker Nirvan Mullick, who needed a door handle for his 1996 Toyota Corolla. He was so impressed with Caine’s Arcade, that he not only bought the Fun Pass — $2 for 500 games — but decided to make a film about Caine.

Soon, though, he realized he was not only Caine’s first customer, he was his only customer.

"I couldn't believe it," said Mullick in his film. "The fun pass is an awesome deal."

So Mullick asked George if it would be OK if he got Caine some more customers. He helped to organize a flash mob to patronize Caine’s Arcade, and one Sunday last October, Caine was flooded with customers.

He's built quite a fan base, it seems, based on comments on the Vimeo site, where the film is posted. "Wish I was in LA to visit," read one comment.

It could be that Caine's Arcade will be ripe for expansion.

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